1-3 of 3 Results  for:

  • Keywords: gender x
Clear all

Article

Syntactic Features  

Peter Svenonius

Syntactic features are formal properties of syntactic objects which determine how they behave with respect to syntactic constraints and operations (such as selection, licensing, agreement, and movement). Syntactic features can be contrasted with properties which are purely phonological, morphological, or semantic, but many features are relevant both to syntax and morphology, or to syntax and semantics, or to all three components. The formal theory of syntactic features builds on the theory of phonological features, and normally takes morphosyntactic features (those expressed in morphology) to be the central case, with other, possibly more abstract features being modeled on the morphosyntactic ones. Many aspects of the formal nature of syntactic features are currently unresolved. Some traditions (such as HPSG) make use of rich feature structures as an analytic tool, while others (such as Minimalism) pursue simplicity in feature structures in the interest of descriptive restrictiveness. Nevertheless, features are essential to all explicit analyses.

Article

Gender  

Jenny Audring

Gender is a grammatical feature, in a family with person, number, and case. In the languages that have grammatical gender—according to a representative typological sample, almost half of the languages in the world—it is a property that separates nouns into classes. These classes are often meaningful and often linked to biological sex, which is why many languages are said to have a “masculine” and a “feminine” gender. A typical example is Italian, which has masculine words for male persons (il bambino “the.m little boy”) and feminine words for female persons (la bambina “the.f little girl”). However, gender systems may be based on other semantic distinctions or may reflect formal properties of the noun. In all cases, the defining property is agreement: the behavior of associated words. In Italian, the masculine gender of the noun bambino matches its meaning as well as its form—the noun ends in –o and inflects like a regular –o class noun—but the true indicator of gender is the form of the article. This can be seen in words like la mano “the.f hand,” which is feminine despite its final -o, and il soprano “the.m soprano,” which is masculine, although it usually refers to a woman. For the same reasons, we speak of grammatical gender only if the distinction is reflected in syntax; a language that has words for male and female persons or animals does not necessarily have a gender system. Across the languages of the world, gender systems vary widely. They differ in the number of classes, in the underlying assignment rules, and in how and where gender is marked. Since agreement is a definitional property, gender is generally absent in isolating languages as well as in young languages with little bound morphology, including sign languages. Therefore, gender is considered a mature phenomenon in language. Gender interacts in various ways with other grammatical features. For example, it may be limited to the singular number or the third person, and it may be crosscut by case distinctions. These and other interrelations can complicate the task of figuring out a gender system in first or second language acquisition. Yet, children master gender early, making use of a broad variety of cues. By contrast, gender is famously difficult for second-language learners. This is especially true for adults and for learners whose first language does not have a gender system. Nevertheless, tests show that even for this group, native-like competence is possible to attain.

Article

Agreement in Germanic  

Haldór Ármann Sigurðsson

There are four major types of agreement in Germanic: finite verb agreement, primary predicate agreement, secondary predicate agreement, and DP-internal concord, and there is extensive variation among the Germanic languages across all these agreement phenomena. Icelandic commonly has five distinct person/number forms of verbs, while Afrikaans and the mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) have no person/number distinctions of verbs, with the other languages positioning themselves between these extremes. Standard varieties of West-Germanic languages (Afrikaans, Dutch, English, German, Yiddish, West-Frisian,) have no predicate agreement, whereas standard varieties of Scandinavian languages (Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish) all have both primary and secondary predicate agreement. There is, however, quite some variation in predicate agreement within the Scandinavian languages. The Mainland Scandinavian languages have gender/number agreement of both primary and secondary predicates, albeit with some variation as to whether only predicative adjectives or both predicative adjectives and past participles show agreement (and also as to when past participles show agreement). The Insular Scandinavian languages (Faroese and Icelandic), on the other hand, have case agreement, in addition to gender/number agreement, of both primary and secondary predicates, either adjectives or past participles (e.g., Icelandic primary predicate agreement: “He.nom.m.sg was drunk.nom.m.sg”; secondary predicate agreement: “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sg drunk.acc.m.sg” [he was drunk] versus. “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sg drunk.nom.f.sg” [she was drunk]). Case agreement in these two languages commonly disambiguates secondary predicate structures. Afrikaans has no concord of DP-internal modifiers (articles, adjectives, etc.), whereas the other West-Germanic languages have some DP-concord, poorest in English, richest in German (which has gender/number/case concord of a number of categories, most clearly the articles). The Mainland Scandinavian languages also have some DP-concord (gender/number), while DP-concord is extensive in Faroese and Icelandic (gender/number/case of articles, demonstrative determiners, adjectives, some numerals, indefinite pronouns, floating quantifiers, and some possessive pronouns). The Germanic languages are a relatively small and closely knit language family, so the extensive agreement variation within this small family is a major challenge to any general theory of agreement.